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Don't look at the options?

3666 Views 8 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  indigo
Most of our teachers say that never look at the options and answers before reading the question
Now in some cases the question is a very lengthy description of a case and the last statement is a simple question that you need to find it's answer in the options
for example child came with fever, rash, ....etc after a very long case then the last statement is what are criteria to diagnose kawasaki disease?
so why wasting our time reading that long case, just see the options first you'll have an idea what's the question, look for it in the stem and bingo
Time is precious in USMLE right!!
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Hi Shanta,
this is because you will never know whether the stem is relevant or not until you read it :)
For instance
a grey case of MI Vz Angina one day ago then the question is about the expected ischemic pathological changes after one day?
If you go straight to the options you may answer it right away thinking it's MI because that's what you tend to think of when presented with pathological changes while in fact your patient has angina and you should pick the no changes option even if it's one day since the symptoms.

In the example you gave [Kawasaki disease] yes you may feel that reading the lengthy case scenario was a waste of time, but you only knew that after reading the whole case word by word and carefully.

By the way nowadays such a clear switch cases are getting rarer in both step 1 and CK.

There's another problem with that
which is if you read the answers first you tend to tailor the stem into the options that are in your mind because you are preoccupied with the answer
you may even be "blinded" to some facts

Lastly if you read the options first then you found a twisted case in the stem you will then want to go back to the options once again thereby effectively wasting more time than when if you haven't read the options first
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you gave a great scientific explanation!
Kaplan said even you should cover the answers with your hand to avoid the temptation
Hemophilia or something else?

Here's an example of what steptaker is talking about

14 yr old boy came with knee joint hemearthrosis and easy bleeding, long history of chronic abdominal pain and diarrhea, short stature, bleeding rectal fissure, PT and PTT high.
labs would show low levels of which of the following
a- factor VIII
b- factor IX
C- factors II, VII, IX, X
d- factors II, V, VII, IX, X
e- von Willebrand factor

Now if you look at the options before reading the question you will immediately start remembering all the bleeding disorders that you memorized by heart
Once you see knee hemarthorsis in the beginning you will put hemophilia in the back of your head and continue reading accordingly
you'll say why not he can have short stature because of the chronic illness and joint deformity
abdominal pain and diarrhea ... nah that's a distractor
high PT PTT that's it they gave me the diagnosis and the you'll happily end up choosing option A :eek:

But if you havn't seen the options before hand you'll have open mind and you'll try to conglomerate all what's at stake and hopefully you'll come up with Chron's Disease as a dx and then you see the options and correctly pick up the vitamin K dependent clotting factors ;)
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I think a good way is to read the last line of the question, then read the question. And finally proceed to the answer.

As in for the above example, read the last line and know that the question is about finding a lab value, just take 1 second to glance the option to see what kinda lab value are they talking about, then proceed to read the question. A good practise would be to already have the answer in mind once you reach the end of the question.
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dont skip anything

its always a good idea to read the whole question and be able to eliminate the distractors but i dont think you should only read the last line.
Cover the Options - A Simple MCQ Strategy [Multiple Choice Questions]
By S. Merritt On September 11, 2009
In multiple choice test jargon, the incorrect options on the test are called distractors, and they're aptly named because they do just that: distract you from the correct answer.

Distractors are tough. They lead to second-guessing, and increased test anxiety. Good multiple choice test-taking, on the other hand, is all about focus, and distractors don't make the job of staying focused any easier. To decrease the power of distractors, try this simple trick.

Using a blank sheet of paper, a ruler or even your hand, cover up all the response options for the question. Just read the stem. Make sure the distractors are invisible. This allows you to:

Focus solely on the wording of the question
Not be distracted or misled by some of the possible answers (remember, test-makers can be out to trick you)
Stay calm and work the test, instead of the test working you
Make sure you get the options covered completely before you even start reading the question. Even a quick glimpse and your eye will pick up some of the options before you have a chance to look away.
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